New Delhi: Amid reports of El Nino possibly impacting monsoon in India, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said the government will keep a close watch on monsoon progress this year and ruled out any major impact on foodgrain production.
"It is too early to say. I had discussion yesterday with Met officials. They said they will be able to come out with monsoon forecast in second week of April," Pawar told reporters replying to a query on monsoon forecast for 2014.
On concerns over El Nino conditions, he said, "Our Met Department is seriously concentrating on this subject. This type of situation we have seen in 2009 as well. But whatever assessment made by experts about this issue, they said it will not be that severe which will impact overall production and productivity. But still, we are keeping a close eye (on it)."
El Nino refers to the warming of ocean water in the central and east Pacific and cooling of West. This condition occurs every 4 to 12 years. It had last hit India's monsoon in 2009, leading to worst drought in nearly four decades.
Addressing the Kharif 2014 Conference, Pawar said that the country may surpass the agriculture growth target of 4 percent during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Pawar expressed concern that India's agriculture is still dependent on vagaries of monsoon and asked farm scientists to develop drought resistant varieties.
"Whether we like it or not, uncertainty of rains seems to be a permanent problem to this country. Our scientists have to develop certain varieties which are resistant to various types of stress particularly during delayed monsoon."
Scientists are developing such varieties but they need to focus more, he added.
Earlier, Agriculture Commissioner J S Sandhu said that the government must be prepared for delayed and deficient monsoon this year in the backdrop of private agencies predicting below normal monsoon for India.
"We have not yet received monsoon forecast from the Met Department. Some private agencies have predicted below normal monsoon and there will be El Nino impact. We should be prepared for delayed onset of monsoon and prolonged dry spell," Sandhu said while presenting a paper on the country's preparedness for kharif sowing to begin from June.
He also said that contingency plans for 449 districts in 23 states have already been prepared.
He also stressed on the need to review the methodology of fixing the minimum support price as farmers are complaining about increased input costs even as the government has hiked the support price significantly in the last ten years.